Care of Cast Iron Cookware is a little more difficult than care of a normal pot or pan. Most experts agree that the even heat and added flavor of a cast iron pan is worth it though. When you first get a new piece of cast iron cookware it should be cleaned with soapy water (this is the only time soap should be used on it) and a stiff plastic bristle brush (recommended) then rinsed. Do not let it sit in the soapy water, cast iron is a porous material that will absorb the soap and then pass it on to your food. If you dry the cookware with a towel it may discolor the towel, this is normal.
Seasoning your Cast Iron:
After your cookware has fully dried from its initial washing it is ready to be seasoned. First you fully coat the metal with cooking oil, we recommend vegetable oil (a spray oil will work, however they can get messy). You can use a paper towel or a soft cloth dip it into the oil and brush it on the metal, be sure to thoroughly coat it, inside and out.
Preheat your grill to around 350 degrees, place a foil-lined pan (larger then your cookware) on the lower grill rack, this will act as a drip pan. Then you place the cookware upside-down on the rack above the foil pan and let cook for 1 hour. After the hour turn off the oven and leave the cookware inside to cool. Cast Iron will hold the heat for a long time so it is just easier to let it cool down in your oven.
Your new cast iron cookware is now ready for use. We recommend placing cast iron cookware into a plastic bag when stored; this prevents the oil from getting on the other items in your kitchen cabinets.
After each use:
Cast Iron should be rinsed in hot water and scrubbed with a stiff brush. Allow it to thoroughly dry, then you fully coat the metal with cooking oil, like you did in the seasoning step. Be sure to coat it inside and out, this step prevents the metal from rusting when stored.
In the event that something gets stuck to your cookware that cannot be removed with a regular cleaning, you may use an S.O.S or scouring pad to clean it. However we do recommend burning the stubborn spot off with high heat (doing this outdoors on your grill is recommended). This will turn it to ash and it should flake right off. Either way the cookware will need to be re-seasoned after it is cleaned.
If you ever mistakenly wash your cast iron with soap it will also have to be re-seasoned and start the process all over again.
While all of this makes cast iron high maintenance, keep in mind that a piece of cast iron cookware that is properly taken care of will last you a lifetime.
Note: the 40 year old cast iron pan in the photo above was going to be thrown away because it was so rusty. A scouring pad and a little elbow grease and you can see it is good as new. As cast iron gets seasoned more and more it only gets better.
The rules of care for cast iron cookware do not apply to some of the newer pans on the market. The cast iron actually has a coating over it, like on your grill grates. While these will give you the even cooking you lose the additional seasoning that traditional cast iron will give you. So if given a choice go “old school”.
Have any tips on care of cast iron cookware? Please add it in the comments section.
About the author: Mike is the owner of 4thegrill.com, a Certified Food Safety Professional and KCBS member.
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